Industry warns of lockdown of production: “Borders Harakiri”

Production at the main BASF plant in Ludwigshafen

The employees deal with the hygiene rules very responsibly, according to the chemical company.

(Photo: obs)

Düsseldorf In the political debate about tightening the lockdown, the industry is urgently warning against the closure of production facilities. The systems could not be “switched off and on at will like a light bulb”, says Markus Jerger from the BVMW SME Association. A total lockdown would mean the end for many companies, especially in the manufacturing sector, and cause massive economic damage.

The association “The Family Entrepreneurs” made a similar statement on Tuesday. Its President Reinhold von Eben-Worlée said of the demands for a complete shutdown of the industry: “That borders on Harakiri: After all, we ensure the supply of the population with our materials and products.”

On Tuesday, at the next summit, the federal and state governments will discuss further steps to contain the corona pandemic. Politicians have already brought the closure of industrial plants into play as a possible consequence of the persistently high number of infections.

However, it is becoming apparent that the Prime Ministers are divided on this issue. For Lower Saxony’s head of state, Stefan Weil (SPD), a shutdown of the industry is not an option: “You have to realize that a complete economic standstill is associated with enormous damage,” said the SPD politician on Monday.

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This is not just about the economic impact on the companies themselves. The chemical industry, for example, predicts supply problems for the entire economy and for the health system if it had to close its factory gates.

Experts recall the experiences from the first lockdown in spring 2020. According to an investigation by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, the effects were long-lasting. Numerous companies suffered production collapses or were affected by delivery problems from suppliers.

“Working from home is simply not possible”

The study shows that production got off to a slow start after the first lockdown. As quickly as a production facility can be stopped, it is just as challenging to restart it. This is especially true for the deeply networked chemical plants, but also for car production.

Industrial companies also refer to their safety and hygiene concepts. We work in permanent shifts, the teams are strictly separated from one another. In industries such as chemicals and pharmaceuticals, the safety standards are so high that the risk of contracting the virus while in operation is lower than in front of the factory gates, said Michael Vassiliadis, head of the mining, chemical and energy union, on Monday.

Vassiliadis also rejects calls for companies to work from home: In many industrial sectors, working from home is simply not possible. The administrations of the chemical and pharmaceutical companies already work mostly in the home office, as surveys among the companies show.

Germany’s largest chemical company, BASF, does not consider it necessary to work from home. “Our experience over the past few months has shown that employees are very responsible for the current distance and hygiene regulations at the site and work from home whenever possible,” says the DAX company.

More: Tougher lockdown is approaching: Politicians could still turn these adjusting screws

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How this bodyguard deals with mask grudges in the office

Düsseldorf, Stuttgart The first working days of the new year are done. And? Have you already had stress and arguments at work again?

If so, don’t worry. After all, it is quite normal that not only your colleagues but also the conflicts of the past year find their way back into everyday work. According to a study by the personnel company Orizon, arguments with colleagues in this country are even among the three biggest stress factors in the workplace.

In addition, in times of Corona, home office and video chats, communication with each other is already being put to a tough test. This can lead to misunderstandings – and thus to arguments. However, what distinguishes good from bad conflict management is the severity with which a dispute is resolved.

Heidi Prochaska knows how to de-escalate skillfully. As a long-term bodyguard for top managers in Germany and Austria, she passes on her knowledge of de-escalation in seminars, lectures and coaching. Her book “Security and De-escalation – What Makes Life Better” was also recently published.

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As an ex-bodyguard, Prochaska is of the opinion that every office war can be cooled down with the right strategy. “After all, de-escalating does not mean clearing up, but only taking the edge off the conflict.” Five basic rules are decisive, as the expert reveals in an interview with Handelsblatt:

  1. Prevention prevents boiling up: De-escalating conflicts in the workplace “80 percent of the time it’s about prevention,” says Prochaska. “Most dangers can be averted in advance if you know your employees and colleagues well and are attentive. Then you can better assess their behavior in difficult situations and react appropriately. “
  2. The other does not change: “At least not quickly and certainly not in acute situations,” says Prochaska. Rather, everyone has to start with themselves and adapt their own behavior, “even if that is often the most difficult. For example, I don’t always have to reply to a verbal punch straight away; I can accept it or avoid it, ”explains the expert.
  3. To listen: “Anyone who feels they are being taken into account and taken seriously usually shifts down a gear,” says Prochaska. This applies to employee interviews as well as to complaining customers on the phone. From the trainer’s point of view, the latter are only king if they behave like them.
  4. Talk less: “Otherwise the matter will rock up with every further comment or criticism.” In the event of verbal derailments, Prochaska reacts calmly with a calm “Aha”. “A referee in sport does not have to react to every curse a player has with a warning.”
  5. Caution, humor! Not taking yourself so seriously – that can relax a situation. Just like being able to show weakness in certain situations and laugh at yourself. But: “When it comes to humor, you need a sure instinct,” warns expert Prochaska. “Jokes – especially from the line manager – can easily be seen as making fun of someone.” That quickly comes across as arrogant, disrespectful or even hurtful. On the other hand, even a boss cannot feel taken seriously when an employee ridicules problems.

So far so good. But how should specialists and managers react if the situation in the workplace escalates despite all this? The Handelsblatt confronted conflict manager Heidi Prochaska with four explosive situations and asked for tips on de-escalation.

Conflict 1: The mask refuser in the office

The situation: An employee has been saying for days that he is always on the road to lateral thinker rallies and that the Corona measures destroyed a lot more than the virus itself. After the last demo, to which the employee once again invited the entire department, decides he, in future, will only come to the office without a mask. What to do?

The expert advises: “The employee deliberately breaks the rules, and he knows it too. He must therefore explain why he is doing this. To do this, I separate him from the rest of the workforce and let him talk first, I’m interested in his point of view. When he’s blown off steam, it’s easier to talk to him and explain why the rules apply to him too. ”

Conflict 2: Racism in the workplace

The situation: In customer service you hear that three colleagues are bullying a new employee from Nigeria. There are insults, the new employee is intimidated and calls in sick. You did not notice the verbal attacks yourself. However, the situation was described to you by two colleagues, and it would not be the first time that the employees had attracted attention through xenophobic comments. What to do?

The expert advises: Prochaska would speak to the victim first, “to clarify the situation for me. When I know what happened, I have to speak to the perpetrators and ask why they are attacking someone who is weaker. This leads the perpetrators to explain their behavior. If I can’t reach the perpetrators, I can still try to build up the victim. For example by talking to him about his strengths. If that succeeds, bullying no longer works so well. “

Conflict 3: conflict of the generations

The situation: A young department head takes over a team with three experienced employees. The older men hardly trust the new boss and reminisce about their old boss. The sentence keeps coming up: “Well, your predecessor always did it that way …” The manager ignores the comment for the first time, but wonders when the right time has come to address the topic. What to do?

The expert advises: “Definitely not justify! The superior doesn’t have to. If there are experienced colleagues, it helps to flatter them, value the experience, give them responsibility, involve them and discuss goals. That loosens the hardened fronts a bit. ”If that didn’t help either, Prochaska would address the employees individually in a one-on-one conversation and make their own point of view clear. Tenor: “We no longer do everything as we used to, unless there are good reasons for it. So what do you expect from me specifically? “

Conflict 4: The physical confrontation

The situation: In a transport company a manager has to give notice to two of his employees due to operational and crisis reasons and asks them to do so in his office. After receiving the message, one of the employees begins to insult the manager, the other threatens him with violence and leans over the table to him. What to do?

The expert advises: With a little preparation, the conversation might have turned out differently, says Prochaska. Her tip: “When it comes to dismissals, only speak in private! If you notice that it is getting tough, then open the door so that your assistant can listen in if it gets louder. And when someone bends over your table, you get up (actually, you get up when someone gets up from their chair). The hierarchy has to be clear in such a situation. The superior must have the upper hand. “

More: These TED Talks bring you more than any management advisor

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Hubertus Heil on the home office debate: “A very clear message”

Hubertus Heil

The Federal Minister of Labor says: “I am serious about proposals.”

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) has urgently appealed to employers to allow home offices wherever possible. “This is not just any appeal, but a very clear message from the federal and state governments to the economy,” said the SPD politician in an interview with the Handelsblatt.

Many companies acted responsibly. But there are also those who arbitrarily refused to work on the move. “That is irresponsible,” said Heil.

The request to work from home if possible is also directed at the employees – even if he understands that many would like to see their colleagues again. But it is a question of responsibility, and the employees are also deceived.

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“We will work much more productively”

Rohit Bhargava

“I don’t predict the future, but rather track down the accelerated present,” says the innovation and marketing expert.

(Photo: Microsoft)

Not only those attending the South by Southwest tech conference know the futurologist Rohit Bhargava. Wherever he appears, his lectures on “non-obvious” trends are very popular. The 45-year-old American reports that the seminars he is broadcasting via the Internet are fully booked even in times of the Corona. Nevertheless: “I miss the human contact.”

Mr. Bhargava, how important is technology for a new trend?
In my opinion, technology very rarely triggers a trend. Others have a different view of things. They say: drones or artificial intelligence are a trend. But these are just technologies. For me, drones are based on the trend towards “maximum convenience”, the speed of deliveries. But other technologies such as 3D printers also play a role.

What do you have to know about technology to see a trend?
One should be a curious observer. Nobody needs to be able to program a drone to understand its impact on business and culture. But you can’t ignore technology.

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What bosses and employees need to know

Office workers with mouth and nose protection

Employees and managers are only allowed into the office for a valid reason, as the federal and state governments decided on Tuesday.

(Photo: Unsplash)

Düsseldorf The lockdown in Germany is extended. The new measures are tough, admitted Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday evening. However, the continued high number of infections, the tense situation in hospitals and intensive care units and new mutations of the coronavirus have induced the federal and state governments to tighten the restrictions further:

These are the most important decisions:

  • In regions with more than 200 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in one week, people are only allowed to move 15 kilometers away from their place of residence for “good reasons”.

  • Schools and daycare centers will remain closed and will only gradually open again at the beginning of February. Until then, students must attend classes from home. For parents of daycare children there is the option of emergency care.

  • As in spring 2020, people are only allowed to meet one other person who does not live in the household.

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The home office brings calm and strange smells

The author

Tillmann Prüfer is a member of the editor-in-chief of “Zeit-Magazin”.

So I’m staying at home. Much has been written about how one has come to appreciate one’s own home in the past few weeks. People who have always been on the road before and have been stressed about it all the time have finally been able to discover how beautiful the view from their own kitchen window is.

Of course, there are always disadvantages to working from home. For example, that the quality of the Internet connection at home decreases considerably when everyone else is also working from home and looking out the kitchen window. You finally come to the longed-for deceleration.

In the home office, you finally no longer have the problem that you have to be separated from your dear family members during working hours. So you can discuss with your boss whether you have to do a certain job – and at the same time with your own child whether they have to do a certain homework. Most of the time you do both.

The more time you spend in the home office, the less you understand why offices were built at some point. Whereby: I personally recently came up with another reason. In office buildings you don’t have to deal with the smell of decay that quickly. In my home office, yes.

I live in an old building – and in old buildings, you know, there are always unpleasant surprises. I felt the same when I heard a strange, sticky smell during a Zoom meeting. I had the feeling that the stench was coming from the wall. I thought of a rotting rat in a wall – or something. Or some animal, maybe a raccoon, that got lost in a cable duct.

Once you have noticed a bad smell, it is difficult to ignore it. Especially when you’re in lockdown. I considered the possibility that a sewer pipe was leaking. I called a plumber who told me to wait for wet stains to show up somewhere. There were none.

I considered buying scented trees. I have seen in psychological thrillers that murderers cover up the decay smells of the murdered. In the end I preferred to set up a smoker. The smoker had to work in piece.

Now, after two weeks, I smell it less. But I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve just got used to it – while the decay has already sucked into my clothes. Under these circumstances, I don’t even know whether I should wish for an end to the lockdown at all. When I leave the apartment people will think I’m an undead. I heard a cat is missing from neighbors in the house.

More: Smile or not – that’s a tricky question

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Countries approve home office flat rates

Home office and taxes

The home office flat rate is one of the advertising costs, for which all taxpayers are credited with a flat rate of 1000 euros anyway.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin The federal states gave the green light on Friday for a tax flat rate for working in the home office and other tax changes. If you work from home during the Corona crisis, this makes it easier for you to claim your expenses in your tax return.

You can set 5 euros per day in the home office, but a maximum of 600 euros per year. The special regulation applies to the years 2020 and 2021 – after that, it is hoped that the corona pandemic could be under control and most of them could return to their jobs.

The home office flat rate is one of the advertising costs, for which all taxpayers are credited with a flat rate of 1000 euros anyway. Only those who spend more than 1000 euros here will benefit from the Corona measure.

At the same time, the current regulation was extended, according to which employer subsidies for short-time working allowances remain tax-free. In addition, a tax regime for apartments that are rented out at particularly favorable prices has been changed.

So far, landlords could only claim advertising costs if the rent was at least 60 percent of the local comparative rent. This limit now drops to 50 percent. This is to prevent landlords from increasing rents for tax reasons.

In addition, volunteers are relieved. The tax-free flat rate for trainers, from which youth coaches in sports clubs benefit, increases from 2,400 euros to 3,000 euros per year. In addition, an expense allowance for voluntary activities of up to 840 euros per year will remain tax-free in future and not just – as currently – up to a limit of 720 euros.

More: New rules from 2021 – what taxpayers can look forward to

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Up to 250,000 jobs threatened

Dhe upcoming lockdown and the already sluggish Christmas business endanger up to 250,000 jobs in the inner city trade according to the German trade association (HDE). “Under normal circumstances, December is the most important month of the year, in the pandemic it is a total failure,” said HDE Managing Director Stefan Genth of “Bild am Sonntag”. Around 560,000 people worked in the main sectors of downtown retail, “between 150,000 and 250,000 of these jobs are acutely threatened”.

In the event of a tough lockdown, the chief executive is demanding the same retail compensation that was promised the hospitality industry. “If shops are closed, they have to be compensated with 75 percent of the previous year’s turnover. That already requires equal treatment, “said Genth. A lockdown without compensation would massively destroy jobs. Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU), however, rejected such compensation on Friday.

In retail there are also increasing voices that speak out against a quick lockdown. Gunnar George, managing director of the retail chain Depot (650 branches), told the newspaper: “A hasty, quick lockdown, for example as soon as next Wednesday, would rather cause panic and complete chaos, because everyone then wants to go into town quickly for gifts to buy.”

In general, the pandemic is affecting retail on many fronts. Above all, there is a lack of foreign guests in jewelry shops due to the closed borders, especially from the Far East, who sometimes spend considerable sums of money. Closing the restaurants also costs customers who might otherwise have seen something worth buying on a subsequent stroll through town. Last but not least, due to the risk of infection, retail is shifting even faster to the Internet, which benefits large chains such as Amazon and Otto in particular, which can score points with a large range and fast delivery times.

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How likely is an infection in the office?

Düsseldorf Work in the office is still the norm for many employees, even if the home office is gaining in importance.

On average, German office workers currently still work 3.5 days a week in the office, as Morgan Stanley found.

Many wonder how well they are protected from corona infection in their company. Hardly anyone should know more about it than chemistry professor José Luis Jiménez from the University of Colorado.

He has been investigating the dynamics of air particles for 20 years and, together with nine other experts, published an estimation function in which you can enter very precise data on everyday situations in which the coronavirus can spread.

The model has to be adapted to German office conditions. There are guidelines for the work area per employee, and it can also be assumed that, unlike in schools, masks are not worn. For example, the decisive factor in determining the risk of infection is whether or not people speak out loud at work.

Ventilation also plays a major role, which is different depending on the office building. Then there is the available space and the question of how many colleagues are in a room or conference room.

Let’s look at the first and worst case scenario. An increased risk of infection during work can definitely be determined here:

How can you reduce the risk of infection? Primarily with adequate ventilation. The air exchange rate should be four to seven times an hour. You can do this by opening the windows regularly. However, in many office buildings it is difficult or impossible to open windows. There are air conditioning systems that provide enough fresh air – and can significantly reduce the risk of infection.

graphic

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